The Home Secretary has insisted the Government’s border strategy has not failed to manage Covid-19 variants of concern, despite surging infection rates driven by the Delta strain of the virus.
Priti Patel was challenged by the chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Yvette Cooper, who said data shows there had been multiple introductions of the variant over a period of several weeks.
Ms Cooper said: “The system you had in place to prevent new variants spreading clearly didn’t operate quickly enough to prevent that happening, why is that?”
The MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford added: “Given that this system clearly failed, why did it, and therefore what will we need to do to prevent future new variants?”
Ms Patel responded: “It is important to say this system has not failed.
“The fact of the matter is that we do have an end-to-end comprehensive approach when it comes to border security.”
She claimed there has been 100% compliance with Covid-19 controls at ports and airports, and that the traffic light system of restrictions on travel has been very successful.
“The Government has had a long standing record and policy of managing health issues at the border which is very, very well publicised,” the Home Secretary said.
“On top of that, we have the largest genomic sequencing capacity, in the world effectively, which has been able to spot these variants of concerns that have been coming into the country.”
Ms Patel’s claims follow reports that border officials are no longer required to conduct basic coronavirus checks on arrivals in England from green and amber list countries, according to leaked instructions to staff.
The changes, that allegedly came into force on Monday and were reported in the Guardian, mean Border Force no longer have to check if a traveller has proof of a negative Covid-19 test, has a test booked in the coming days, or has filled out a passenger locator form.
Responding to the Guardian’s story, a Government spokesperson said: “All passenger locator forms are still being checked by carriers, as they are legally required to do, and to suggest otherwise is wrong.
“This legal requirement on carriers is underpinned by a robust compliance regime, which is overseen by regulators.
“Compliance with these rules is essential in order to protect the population from new variants of Covid-19, and so there will be tough fines for those who do not follow the rules.”